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What Parents Can Do to Help Ensure a Safe Summer

As summer vacation is upon us, it is important for parents to be aware of summer temptations and to take positive steps to prevent, delay or moderate substance use. Parents can:

Talk with your child. Summertime gives parents extra R&R time to connect and

bond with their children and have meaningful, unrushed conversations. It's a perfect time to continue what should be an ongoing discussion about substance use. Use these tips on How to Talk with Your Child About Substance Use. The bottom line? Make sure your child is aware that you care about their well-being and safety.

Provide Summertime Structure. While summertime should be a welcome break from the packed schedules and rigors of the school year, daily activities that provide structure are recommended to prevent substance use out of boredom and too much free time. Unlike last summer, stores and restaurants are hiring, and summer camps and programs are happening. Volunteer opportunities and online classes also abound. Is your child skilled at a particular sport? Neighborhood parents love older children who can give lessons to their kids.

Establish rules for the summer. Your rules shouldn't go out the window just because its summertime and pandemic restrictions are largely gone. For example, even if your summer curfew is later than during the school year, its still a good idea to have one. Review our Tips on Setting Boundaries and Monitoring Your Child.

Use the BTI Parent Directory. This is an invaluable resource to connect with other parents and determine your child's level of supervision and access to substances when your child is at another home - during the day or at night.

Just "Say Know". Our Blog contains information on various drugs with facts on how they drugs affect adolescents, including blogs on alcohol, vaping and cannabis. Read these to inform conversations with your child, reinforcing messages about the risks involved with using these substances.

Take a "Harm Reduction" approach if appropriate. At some point, prevention efforts by necessity may turn to reality based safety (also known as "harm reduction") efforts. This is especially true for older teens who are more autonomous and are using substances, unlikely to abstain. This approach focuses on reducing risks and preventing adverse consequences or harms rather than use. Read our blog entitled "Now What? What to Do If Your Child is Drinking or Using Substances".

Establish limits with respect to parties. Over a typical summer, there is often a party to be found every night of the week. See our Party Guide with tips for attending parties. Our Party Guide is also translated into Spanish.

Know when to call 911. Read our blog on Calling 911 and "Good Samaritan" Laws.

Model responsible substance use. Summertime can be party time for adults too! Just remember your kids are watching you and mirror your behavior. With barbecues, parties and July 4th get togethers, be thoughtful about alcohol use and have it be an adjunct to good food and conversation - not the central focus.

If you are leaving town but your child is not ...

  • Make sure your child understands that you forbid parties at your house. Be clear about the consequences for violation of this rule.

  • Reconsider allowing your child's friends at your home. An innocent gathering of a few friends can escalate into a raging bash in a matter of minutes with social media, in spite of your child's best intentions.

  • Have your child stay with a friend or relative, or have someone stay in your home. Alternatively, have an adult randomly check up on your children if they are home alone.

  • Alert your neighbors to your absence. Ask them to keep an eye out for suspicious activity or to randomly check up on your children.

  • Notify your local police department of your vacation plans. Doing so may result in patrols by your house and help ensure that you won't be liable under any social host ordinances in your area if there is a party at your home during your absence. Make sure your child knows that the police will be driving by.

  • Lock up or otherwise make inaccessible any alcohol, cannabis and prescription medications. This action should have been taken already but take extra care when you are away.

Although parents may loosen their rules and feel tempted to take a summer time break from monitoring their children, parenting is a 24-7 job - twelve months of the year!

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